How Antonio Brown trade changed Raiders' plan for NFL free agency

How Antonio Brown trade changed Raiders' plan for NFL free agency

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden had been studying this year’s NFL free-agent class for weeks, rarely leaving the building other than to eat or sleep.

Owner Mark Davis invited his chief decision makers and their wives to an event in Las Vegas last weekend, and Gruden suggested they accept.

“I was excited to get Mike out of the building,” Gruden said Wednesday. “We went to Las Vegas and it was a great event with Mike, Mandy Mayock, my wife Cindy and I and it was supposed to be a double date. Instead, we dated Drew Rosenhaus and Antonio Brown.”

The figurative swap happened because Pittsburgh’s deal to send mercurial receiver Antonio Brown to Buffalo fell through Thursday night. There were some contract hang-ups there, and suddenly Brown’s trade value went down.

The Raiders couldn’t meet Pittsburgh’s original asking price, but they met a new one that sends a third-round pick and a fifth-rounder to Pittsburgh for Brown, who in turn got $50 million over three years with $30 million guaranteed.

Mayock said the Raiders didn’t get involved in the Antonio Brown sweepstakes until Friday, the day before the deal was consummated. They had thought about it, but weren’t willing to jump into trade talks requiring one of their four NFL draft picks in the top 35 overall.

Then the price went down, and Mayock and Gruden discussed a realistic possibility that would turn their free-agency plan on its ear.

“The wild card in our planning was the understanding that Antonio Brown might be available,” Mayock said during Brown’s introductory press conference. “When, all of a sudden, we realized we might have an opportunity to compete for his services, it changed everything.

"When Jon and I had the conversation in Las Vegas about the chance to trade for Antonio Brown, there was no hesitation. Both of us thought his play spoke for itself, and we thought it would be important for the locker room and energy around the building.”

His on-field presence doesn’t hurt. Getting a four-time first-team All-Pro in the pattern was worth the extra funds required to secure his services through 2021, even if it meant the Raiders couldn’t go after all of their targets.

They still landed several players in their prime, all to contracts averaging eight figures per year. Antonio Brown came first, with offensive tackle Trent Brown, defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Tyrell Williams, respectively, after that.

The Raiders aren’t done. Expect a veteran, second-tier edge rusher coming down the pike in time, with another cornerback remaining a possibility. Then there’s the matter of securing their own, especially running backs Marshawn Lynch (if he wants to return) and/or Doug Martin. The Raiders are monitoring tight end Jared Cook’s market, though it’s hard to imagine him coming back with a visit to New Orleans Thursday and interest from the Patriots.

[RELATED: AB wants to break Rice's record before career is over]

The Raiders are still right with the salary cap. Without knowing Brown’s contract structure, the Raiders have an estimated $20 million in cap space, with half that devoted to the draft pool. Released players could create more space, as the Raiders adjust now that Brown’s in the fold. There have been reports the Raiders have a cashflow problem, recent signings refute such strong assertions. Mayock and Gruden still have to spend within their means.

“We have nowhere near an unlimited budget,” Mayock said. “The curveball that came out of nowhere was Antonio. What is comes down to is this: you’ve got a finite number of dollars; how do you want to spend them? When he became available, potentially, to us, we had to re-take that sheet of paper out and reanalyze how many players we could successfully chase or not. He was the trigger to the rest of what we did.

"I think, hindsight will be 20/20 a year from now, but we feel we upgraded the Raiders with big signings and we’re excited to keep working on it.”

Las Vegas Raiders can use Tom Brady to build business, Jay Glazer says

Las Vegas Raiders can use Tom Brady to build business, Jay Glazer says

While Derek Carr was in Las Vegas for the Raiders' official rebranding this week, speculation about Tom Brady joining the Silver and Black continues to simmer.

Two weeks ago, The Athletic's Jay Glazer said that Brady to the Raiders is a "no-brainer" because it would help with ticket sales, among other things.

On Friday, Glazer added a bit more context when asked again about where Brady will play next season.

"I said it last week, the Chargers or the Raiders," Glazer wrote. "I spoke about the business side of things. You guys kind of jumped on me talking about how great ticket sales are for the Raiders. I don’t know if I said ticket sales or not but there’s way more than ticket sales when you’re building up a business. They can use Tom Brady to build the business of the Raiders, which will now be an international team. I say that because of all the big business whales from all over the world who are going to come to Las Vegas and now be exposed to the Raiders.

"That’s going to be a hot ticket. The international marketing will be huge. The Raiders are going to be big players internationally with that. That’s why I would think it’s a brilliant move to go to Vegas."

Brady, who will turn 43 years old before the start of the 2020 NFL season, is a free agent and could move on from the Patriots, the only franchise he has ever known.

Carr is under contract with the Raiders for three more seasons, and recently said he is "looking forward" to being under center for the first snap in Las Vegas. But head coach Jon Gruden didn't give the most glowing endorsement of Carr after the regular-season finale in December.

All of this has fueled chatter that the Raiders could bring in Brady to help open their first season in Sin City.

[RELATED: Kiper has Raiders taking two Sooners]

While Brady led the Patriots to a 12-4 record this past season, his numbers declined, suggesting that his best days are behind him.

If owner Mark Davis and Gruden want to win games and continue to build a solid foundation for the future, they'll stick with Carr. If they are more concerned with making a sexy splash, they'll make the change to Brady.

Derek Carr 'looking forward' to being QB in Raiders' Las Vegas opener

Derek Carr 'looking forward' to being QB in Raiders' Las Vegas opener

Out of a possible 96 starts since being drafted by the Raiders in 2014, quarterback Derek Carr has been under center for 94 of them.

But after a disappointing 7-9 season, many Raiders fans have clamored for a change at the game’s most important position.

Carr, however, hasn’t paid the rumors or social media fodder too much attention.

“But I'll say it this way,” Carr said (h/t ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez). “I look forward to taking the first snap in that stadium, and I look forward to taking every snap from here on out -- until I'm done."

The 28-year-old had a career year in 2019, setting career-highs in passing yards (4,054), yards per attempt (7.9), and quarterback rating (100.8).

But coach Jon Gruden grew frustrated with Carr’s inability to throw the ball downfield consistently, and some potential free agent quarterbacks reportedly have caught the Raiders’ eye.

[RELATED: Raiders should pay attention to these 10 Senior Bowl stars]

As the team re-brands and moves into its new home in Sin City, some believe the team will bring on a new starting signal-caller to usher in the Las Vegas Raiders era.

Just don’t count Carr among them.